European Federation of Journalists

Spain: ‘Black Wednesdays’ achieve better working conditions in some newsrooms, protests continue in others

Press workers at 'El Mundo' dressed in black to take part in the 'Black Wednesdays' protest. Credits: @Comite_ELMUNDO.

In Spain, daily press workers in many newsrooms are wearing black on Wednesdays to demand pay rises and improved working conditions, after more than a decade of wage freezes and, in some cases, substantial cuts. The International and the European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ), together with their Spanish affiliates, fully support journalists’ and media workers’ calls for decent salaries and the broader fight against precarity in the sector.

Journalists, media workers and staff from the economic newspaper Expansión reached a pre-agreement with the media company Unidad Editorial – amongst the largests media groups in Spain – to be voted on 3 August, which includes pay rises and the possibility of one day of teleworking per week, among other things. The pre-agreement, to be ratified during the upcoming days, is a significant victory, following weeks of protests in the newsroom and relentless negotiations at work councils and unions with media managers to enhance precarious working conditions of journalists in Spain.

In the previous weeks, staff from other newsrooms such as El Mundo and El País reached similar deals with their employers. However, everything started some months ago.

In April 2023, workers from the daily newspaper El Mundo, which belongs to the media group Unidad Editorial, went to work dressed in black. Around noon time, they walked out of the newsroom and gathered at the entrance of their workplace to protest the company’s refusal to negotiate pay rises and improve their working conditions. It was Wednesday, 19th of April, and the first of many ‘Black Wednesdays’ actions took place.

“The initiative of ‘Black Wednesdays’ was borrowed from colleagues working in Spanish televisions, who started a ‘Black Fridays’ protest against their precarious working conditions back in 2018,” explains the General Secretary of the Federation of Journalists’ Trade Unions (FeSP), Agustín Yanel. “The action in the newsrooms was not a joint and coordinated one, but there has been harmony among work councils and staff in different newspapers because of two primarily shared demands: pay rises and improved working conditions.”

Work councils, in coordination with unions, are behind this protest, which was repeated in other newsrooms after 19 April, such as staff from Expansión and Marca, both belonging to Unidad Editorial; workers from PRISA media group, and staff at  newspaper El País, the sports news outlet AsJournalists at economic news outlet Cinco Días, joined in, as did workers from media group Vocento, publisher of the newspaper ABC, and those at media company Prensa Ibérica, which publishes  El Periódico, among others.

Press worker’s wins 

On 5 July, the work council of El País approved by 92.7% of the votes an agreement that has allowed the updating of salaries after a 12 year freeze. The actions carried out during several ‘Black Wednesdays’ and massive support shown for two strikes on July 7 and 10, which were called off due to the deal, were crucial to keep up the struggle and reach a better agreement with the company at the negotiation table.

On July 7, the work council of El Mundo announced that they approved by 85.8% of the votes an agreement that will allow increased wages in the newsroom, regularisation of teleworking and improving the conditions of the lowest salaries.

Newsrooms stand tall 

However, the demands of every newsroom have not been met. Media workers from El Periódico de Catalunya, based in Barcelona, continue to protest to guarantee a decent future for the Catalan online edition of the newspaper and against the lack of resources and staff. “You cannot do good journalism without resources,” says the work council.

Press workers and staff at Diario Sur, which has its headquarters in Málaga and belongs to the media group Vocento, keep the mobilisations alive. With their salaries frozen for the last 12 years, they call for pay rises and better working conditions.

President of FAPE Miguel Ángel Noceda: “FAPE firmly supports the campaign of ‘Black Wednesdays’ against precariousness promoted by journalists and media workers from different media in Spain. The dignity and quality of journalism requires decent, fair working conditions that are consistent with basic work and support for the democratic system. Global and collective solidarity, as advocated by the IFJ, is the strength and value of our profession.”

The Association of Journalists in Spain (UGT) said: “Low wages, occupational health and precarious working conditions for employed workers and, particularly, for self-employed are some of the problems that affect the practice of journalism in Spain. Adding to these are the low salaries of newcomers and the freezing of wages, in some cases, for more than a decade among veteran journalists. UGT fully supports all initiatives that seek to improve working conditions and dignify the journalistic profession.”

Journalists all over Spain have endured declining real-terms pay for years. The scale of this action shows the level of unhappiness and hardship this has caused. The IFJ and the EFJ applaud the innovation of the ‘Black Wednesdays’ protests and the level of solidarity among journalists in Spain that this has built – your fight is our fight. We stand with you all.